Northern Rakhine State clashes

There is ongoing violence in Myanmar's Rakhine State, which has involved clashes between the government and Rohingya militants. The government has also cracked down on Rohingya civilians — with security forces killing many civilians and burning down Rohingya villages. [14] Myanmar security forces have raped Rohingya women and tortured Rohingya men, according to reports from the United Nations [15] and several NGOs working in the area. [16] [17] Myanmar denies that there is a systematic campaign of rape, though acknowledges it may have been committed by "individual members of the security forces". [15] As a result, hundreds of thousands have fled Myanmar, mostly into Bangladesh. [18]

The Muslim Rohingya minority in the region has historically experienced persecution from the Buddhist majority in the country. [19] [20] [21]

A series of clashes have occurred in Myanmar's Rakhine State between insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and Myanmar's security forces. In October 2016, ARSA insurgents attacked Burmese border posts along the Bangladesh- Myanmar border. In response, Myanmar authorities launched a military campaign against the Rohingya. From October 2016 to June 2017, government operations killed more than 1,000 Rohingya civilians, according to UN officials. [19] [22]

Following attacks on local military outposts by ARSA rebels, which resulted in the deaths of several security personnel, on 25 August 2017, a resurgence in violence erupted throughout northern Rakhine. According to the UN and other agencies, the Myanmar military, aided by violent mobs of local Buddhist Rakhines, responded with a massive retaliation, killing over 400 people (whom it claimed were "insurgents" or "terrorists"). Other estimates have the number as high as 1,000+, including the UN estimate of at least 1,000 deaths between August 25 and September 8. [18] [9] By September, the violence had resulted in 389,000 Rohingyas fleeing their homes. [23]

The ongoing violence has displaced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya. The situation has been described as ethnic cleansing by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. [17] [24] As of January 2017, 69,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh and 23,000 were internally displaced. An additional 370,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh between August and September 2017. [18] Reports of other human rights violations have also emerged. [25]

Foreign leaders, including the United Nations Secretary General and other high UN officials, and the United Nations Security Council — while acknowledging the initial attack by Rohingya insurgents — have strongly criticized the Myanmar government's conduct in the current conflict, calling for the Myanmar government to restrain its forces and factions, and stop attacking civilians. [18]

Background

The Rohingya people are an ethnic minority that mainly live in the northern region of Rakhine State, Myanmar, and have been described as one of the world's most persecuted minorities. [26] [27] [28] They describe themselves as descendants of Arab traders and other groups who settled in the region many generations ago. [26] After riots in 2012, academic authors used the term Rohingya to refer to the Muslim community in northern Rakhine. For example, Professor Andrew Selth of Griffith University uses "Rohingya" but states "These are Bengali Muslims who live in Arakan State...most Rohingyas arrived with the British colonialists in the 19th and 20th centuries." [29] Among the overseas Rohingya community, the term has been gaining popularity since the 1990s, though a considerable portion of Muslims in northern Rakhine are unfamiliar with the term and prefer to use alternatives. [30] [31] Scholars have stated that they have been present in the region since the 15th century. [32] However, they have been denied citizenship by the government of Myanmar, which describes them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. [26]

In modern times, the persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar dates back to the 1970s. [33] Since then, Rohingya people have regularly been made the target of persecution by the government and nationalist Buddhists. [20] The tension between various religious groups in the country had often been exploited by the past military governments of Myanmar. [26] According to Amnesty International, the Rohingya have suffered from human rights violations under past military dictatorships since 1978, and many have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh as a result. [34] In 2005, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had assisted with the repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh, but allegations of human rights abuses in the refugee camps threatened this effort. [35] In 2015, 140,000 Rohingyas remained in IDP camps after communal riots in 2012. [36]